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Inside Clubhouse: The $1.3bn invite-only app Elon Musk loves

Anastasia Santoreneos
·4-min read
Inside the $1.3bn invite-only app Elon Musk loves: Clubhouse. Source: Getty/Clubhouse
Inside the $1.3bn invite-only app Elon Musk loves: Clubhouse. Source: Getty/Clubhouse

From Dogecoin to GameStop, billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweets have triggered big waves in the stock market.

And when he tweeted about an appearance on an app called Clubhouse, the same thing happened.

But if it’s the first time you’re hearing about Clubhouse, you’re probably not alone. Here’s everything you need to know about the exclusive app.

What is Clubhouse?

Launched in April last year, Clubhouse is an audio-chat social networking app.

To break that down further, the app essentially allows users to listen to people’s conversations, interviews and discussions. Think of it like a podcast, but it’s live and way more exclusive.

The app features different “clubs” and virtual rooms with conversations on different topics ranging from music to politics, and users can spontaneously jump into rooms and begin chatting with one another on that topic.

It’s used by celebrities like Tiffany Haddish, Drake and, of course, Elon Musk, but here’s the catch: it’s invite only.

How can I be invited to join Clubhouse?

To use Clubhouse, you need to be invited by someone who is already a member.

When they do that, you should receive a link texted to your phone number, which directs you to a sign-up page in the app.

But users don’t just get to keep inviting people – they only have two invites available at first.

However, the creators have indicated that the app should be available to a wider audience in the near-future, saying they will eventually “open up Clubhouse to the whole world”.

Who founded Clubhouse?

Silicon Valley mates Paul Davison and Rohan Seth launched the app back in March 2020 under their software development company Alpha Exploration Co.

Davison had previously founded a people-meeting location app called Highlight, before his team acquired Pinterest in 2016.

Who are Clubhouse’s investors?

Clubhouse raised US$100 million in its Series B funding in January this year, led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

That took the company’s post-money valuation to US$1 billion.

The firm was also Clubhouse’s initial investor, when it contributed around $10 million in primary capital and US$2 million in secondary shares in early 2020.

How is speech monitored in the app?

The app’s auditing practices have come under fire of late, after the New York Times’ tech culture reporter, Taylor Lorenz, revealed her negative experience on the app.

In a since-deleted tweet, Lorenz revealed she experienced harassment on the app from a CEO of a luggage startup, according to Wired.

A conversation later recorded on the app showed Clubhouse members sledging the press.

But Clubhouse failed to address the incident, or reveal how it monitors hate speech and bullying.

Why did China ban Clubhouse?

Thousands of Chinese users were suddenly unable to access Clubhouse on Monday, with TechCrunch confirming the app had been banned by authorities.

The app had been gaining traction in China, with users able to engage in free speech conversations about democracy. A room discussing the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protest reportedly reached its maximum level of 5,000 participants just prior to the ban.

While the app’s website is unblocked, Clubhouse’s app has been blocked in Beijing.

Elon Musk and Clubhouse

Musk sent his 46.2 million Twitter followers into a frenzy when he revealed he would be speaking on Clubhouse, a new invite-only social media audio app.

But for the second time, Musk’s tweet triggered a surge in the wrong stock.

Stocks in Clubhouse Media Group surged by more than 100 per cent in trading the next day, but it was the wrong Clubhouse.

The Clubhouse that investors were pumping their money into was actually a healthcare company, formerly known as Tongji Healthcare Group.

In August last year, that group acquired a content creation group based in California called The Clubhouse, which is where TikTok influencers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae would stay and create content for their fans.

It has absolutely no connection to the Clubhouse app.

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